Title: 100 Drabbles
Author: Kiwi
Pairing: Wolf x Red
Summary: One hundred 100-word drabbles about Red and Wolf.
Rules: (self-imposed) Must be exactly 100 words; no dialogue.
Warnings: Contains some sexual situations, and, of course, generous helpings of male/male slash.
Kiwi's Note: This was inspired by Apple's '50 Moments' But since I could never confine what I wanted to say to a single sentence, I decided to do drabbles instead. Some bits are set in the past, some in the present story-line, and some are, of course, set in the future. Some might seem a little obscure or confusing, which, I assure you, was done entirely on purpose, as these are all meant to be as canonical as possible. I had a hard time writing some of these, and I think it shows. On the other hand, some of these turned out quite well, I think, and I'm fairly sure that also shows. XD If you manage to make it through all of these, I'd really appreciate a bit of feedback. What did you like vs what didn't you like, and why? These are out of order canonically, of course, because they're alphabetized. Hopefully it's not too confusing. ;


Red reached into the oven and very, very carefully took hold of either side of the soufflé with oven-mitted hands, and gently, reverently, lifted it from the rack and settled it with all the tenderness he possessed on the stovetop. Holding his breath, he backed away cautiously, removing the oven mitts as he went, and sat down at the kitchen table. He allowed himself to breathe then, and looked over at the perfectly risen soufflé, feeling an understandable pride. No matter how many times he successfully completed the delicate operation that was creating a soufflé, he still felt justifiably accomplished.


There was only so much stupidity Red could deal with in a day, and he felt that he had definitely reached his limit for today. And also possibly for tomorrow. He was in such a mood that the next person to so much as ask him an innocent question about the time would likely find themselves with their heads metaphorically bitten off. He wanted to be alone and away from people, the source of stupidity and, also, his aggravation. Fortunately Red encountered no one on his way, and he was able to get himself home without permanently damaging anyone's psyche.


Red pushed Wolf down onto his back and climbed on top of him, straddling the man's waist while he kissed him thoroughly on the mouth. He gripped Wolf's shoulders firmly, eager for and excited by the feel of hard muscle beneath the thin cotton t-shirt. Wolf for his part seemed surprised but pleased by Red's aggressiveness, and happily encouraged his lover by running his hands up and down Red's thighs, squeezing gently from time to time in response to Red's kisses. When Red pulled off Wolf's shirt, the silver-haired man grinned wolfishly, and the rest of their clothes soon followed.


He didn't know how much longer he could stand it. Red was finally opening up to him, becoming friendlier, even welcoming his presence and his careful advances. But he didn't dare move too fast, didn't dare say or do any of the things he really wanted to. At times, when he was alone at night, trying to sleep, he would go over conversations held with the baker over and over in his mind, agonizing over every small detail, over every imagined blunder or misstep. He should have said this, he should have done that...He was often awake for hours, worrying.


It didn't take much to amuse Wolf, Red reflected as he climbed to his feet from where he had tripped and sprawled on the path. Of course, he could tell that the man was concerned about him after his latest spill, but he knew he was also amused. Idly and without any ill feeling, Red wondered how Wolf would react if he dangled a piece of string in front of his face. He realized that particular tactic usually worked on cats, but with Wolf as easily amused as he was, he wouldn't be surprised if it worked on him too.


Wolf was a fairly mellow man, all things told, and his temper didn't often flare. When it did, though, it dug in and smoldered, and he got no relief until whoever or whatever had angered him had been brought down a peg or two. Even as he pleasantly and charmingly made inquiries around town into the identity of the orange Fae who had dared to claim Red for himself, he felt as though he was only inches away from metaphorically exploding with rage. However, he knew that doing that would not be conducive to helping Red, so he restrained himself.


Every time he was in the middle of a delicate operation in the kitchen, his godmother always chose the exact critical moment to appear in the shop with a bang, ruining whatever efforts he had made that day. Usually it was some baked good or pastry for the Queen of Hearts, which annoyed him even further. Not that he had any particular grievance with the Queen, but it was just that the royal had a tendency to order baked goods which required an excruciating amount of concentration to create, and each time he ruined one, he had to start over.


Red paced back and forth in front of the fireplace, stopping every so often to peer out the window that looked out on the path leading to the front door. While Wolf hadn't been gone for much longer than he had guessed, he still felt anxious as the long hand on the mantel clock ticked its way slowly along its set path, keeping track of each minute that went by. The sun had set a while ago, making it difficult to see outside. Red dragged a kitchen chair over by the window and sat down, face pressed to the glass.


Wolf flopped down on a grassy hill and stared up at the grey sky. He wondered passively if it was going to rain. A moment later he realized it didn't smell like it would. Well. Whatever. He gazed at the solid bank of clouds that drifted serenely by above him without interest. He didn't have the motivation to pick out shapes in the sky at the moment. He idly pondered the pros and cons of taking a short nap. He yawned experimentally. Maybe later. He must have eventually gone to sleep, though, because it was dark when he woke up.


Red watched Wolf for the better part of the day from the corner of his eye. The man was acting understandably cool given the nature of their latest argument, and Red was feeling miserable and unhappy. He didn't like it when Wolf was angry at him. It made him feel lower than dirt, lower than scum. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. He sidled up to Wolf, who was reading in the sitting room, plunked down into his lap, and pressed his face against the man's neck. He could barely understand his own mumbled apology, but Wolf hugged him anyway.


Red guided the tube of icing carefully around his latest confection. He was taking more care than usual with the lettering on this cake. It wasn't a commission, nor was it to go in the display case in the shop-front. He'd been planning this for months, and was both excited and nervous now that he was actually nearly finished; he had made it for the most important person in his life, after all, and it had to be utterly perfect. Finishing off the final curl, he examined his work, and smiled happily at the two words written there: Happy Anniversary.


It was amazing, the way Wolf looked at him with those golden eyes of his. Red could not understand how he had managed to mistake the look on the man's face for anything other than love so long. It pained him to think about all the times he'd spurned Wolf's genuine feelings, how often and thoughtlessly he had insulted him. And that he could still gaze at Red like that, even after years of nothing but rejection and scorn...it was something he could barely comprehend. That Wolf loved him so much despite how he had always treated him...Red was ashamed.


Red hummed cheerfully as he tied an apron on over his pajamas and started the stove. Today was going to be a good day; he had slept well last night, and had awoken this morning with the sun feeling refreshed and energized. He would have his usual breakfast, clean up the kitchen, and be started on the day's orders by eight at the latest. It was a good thing he was feeling awake and alert, because the Queen of Hearts had ordered yet another soufflé, and he would need his wits about him to ensure the confection came out perfectly.


Red crept quietly to the bathroom and started the shower, hoping he wouldn't wake Wolf. He knew he had to face the man sometime, but he wasn't certain he could do it just yet, not so soon after last night. He relaxed under the spray of hot water, closing his eyes and blushing as he remembered. He was startled by the sound of the curtain being shoved aside, and looked up into what he now thought of as the world's most beautiful pair of eyes. Blushing bright red, he turned about and faced the wall, all of a sudden bashful.


Red was terrifically annoyed, and, by the Overpower, the whole bloody world was going to know it! Wolf tried to calm him down with cuddles and kisses, but Red pushed him away, all the while giving the man a proverbial tongue-lashing he wouldn't soon forget. He felt slightly guilty when he saw the hurt look in his lover's amber eyes, but for the most part he was too irritated to care. He stomped into the kitchen and out into the garden, where he began taking out his ire on weeds and rocks, muttering angrily under his breath the entire while.


He didn't want to bake, didn't want to garden, didn't want to do anything, really. Red flopped face-first onto the loveseat in the sitting room and closed his eyes, thinking he might as well nap, but sleep eluded him. So he turned his head to the side and stared at the well lived-in room instead; the heavy rug on the hardwood floor, little bits of burnt wood left behind in the fireplace from last winter, the heavy wine-colored curtains that were currently drawn closed over the large, north-facing windows...He was feeling very...blah. He hoped he'd be able to sleep soon.


Wolf tried to focus on the text in front of him, but his eyes kept shifting out of focus, and he couldn't bring himself to concentrate hard enough to take sense from the words on the page. So he sat in his chair by the fireside and stared blankly at the open book in his hands, letting his mind wander. His mind, though, like his eyes, seemed to have its own ideas, and refused to wander very far. And so he slouched down a ways in the chair and let his eyes close, and didn't think about anything at all.


Red drifted to consciousness slowly. He was warm and comfortable and safe, curled up in his warm bed with an equally warm body pressed against his; knees to knees, hips to bum, back to chest. His head was pillowed on the right arm of the silver-haired man behind him, his hands curled around the left arm which curled over his side and held him securely by the shoulder, pressing him that much closer into that warm chest. The sun was making a valiant effort to shine through the curtains covering the window. Red smiled and drifted back into blissful sleep.


Bored, Red wandered around the house in search of something to do. He had finished the day's baking, and as he had no deliveries scheduled today, he found himself with an unexpected bit of free-time. He glanced out at the garden, but decided he didn't feel like going outside. He looked over the bookshelves in the study which Wolf had packed with books, but nothing caught his interest. He ended up in the sitting room, and caught sight of Wolf reading in his chair. He strode over to his lover and plunked himself down in his lap, dislodging the book.


Red felt good. He'd just successfully baked a soufflé for the Queen of Hearts, had spent an hour in the garden pulling weeds and straightening things up, and was now in the process of cooking up a delicious breakfast for himself and Wolf. He was almost bouncing, humming a cheerful tune to himself as he worked. When Wolf stepped into the kitchen, still damp from his shower, wearing only a towel, Red didn't think, just leapt towards his lover, wrapped his arms and legs around Wolf's lean torso, kissed him on the mouth. The towel dropped to the floor, unnoticed.


The bakery was busy, and Red was busy. This was the sort of work he preferred to do. Though he himself claimed he didn't have very good people skills, he was actually quite good at customer service. It helped that his regular customers were always cheerful and polite, admittedly. But he also thought that it had to be terribly difficult to be cranky when buying a cake or cookies, so people he'd never seen before were usually quite genial, as well as those he knew. So he sold his wares, day in and day out, and was busy and content.


Red thought he should be panicking, but was able to remain calm despite that thought. He was frightfully behind on his latest order for the Queen of Hearts, and was scrambling madly to finish on time. It helped considerably, he reflected, that his very willing and able lover was there right beside him, assisting and encouraging him as only he knew how. The knowledge that Wolf would also be right there beside him as he made his delivery helped enormously as well. When Wolf accidentally bumped him with his hip and smiled an apology, Red knew everything would work out.


Wolf peered cautiously around the concealing oak he was currently hiding behind, and judged the baker to be far enough away that he could follow without being detected. He slipped quietly through the undergrowth, keeping a safe distance between himself and the man in the red hood, who would be terribly displeased were he to discover he was being followed. Wolf heard a twig snap and realized he'd stepped carelessly; his eyes darted to Red's back, his breath catching in his throat, and then sighed in relief a moment later when it became apparent that Red hadn't noticed the sound.


Red stepped into the kitchen from his garden, whistling a merry tune. He placed the basket of vegetables he had harvested on the counter where Wolf could reach them from the sink, where he was currently peeling potatoes. He stood next to the man and went up on his tip-toes to have a quick kiss, then left the kitchen and disappeared into the back of the house to wash the sweat and earth from his face and hands in the bathroom. Wolf smiled after him lovingly, pleased to see his mate so cheerful, and went back to preparing their dinner.


Red frowned and regarded Wolf thoughtfully. The temperature had dropped drastically in the past weeks, and as a result Wolf was now wearing what Red considered to be entirely too many clothes. He would never have imagined that he would ever miss that constant glimpse of midriff that was a result of Wolf's too low to be decent leather trousers, but he did. He shivered suddenly, and Wolf, ever attentive, pulled him into his warm embrace, wrapping his jacket around them both. Red smiled happily and squidged closer, greedy for as much of Wolf's body heat as he could get.


He lay stretched out in the middle of the bed, warm and content. He could hear quiet footsteps approach, felt the mattress give as Wolf kneeled on it, and waited quietly as he felt the other man appraise him with amber eyes. He smiled when he felt Wolf shift, straddling his body on hands and knees, sighed softly when gentle kisses began dropping on his face, but did not otherwise react. Wolf snorted in amusement when he saw what Red was doing, and set about provoking a reaction in his complacent lover with increasingly demanding and hard to ignore advances.


It was their first time in a restaurant together, and Red was concentrating very hard. Concentrating on the décor, on the menu, on his drink, on the food in front of him...Trying not to blush, trying not to say something stupid, trying to...he didn't know. Make a good impression? What was the point? Wolf already knew basically all there was to know about him, and wanted to spend time with him anyway. Red knew he was being silly, acting this way, but he wanted things to go right so very, very badly, even though he himself wasn't sure exactly why.


Wolf looked up from his cards, glanced across the table at Red, and smirked. Red caught his expression and blushed furiously. A predictable reaction which nevertheless made Wolf want to scatter their cards to the floor and pounce on his lover then and there. But he resisted, telling himself to 'look, don't touch.' He would get what he wanted soon enough. This was why he loved playing strip-poker with Red. Not only did he usually win, the two of them always ended up on the floor beneath the table, and Wolf got a very nice view beforehand in the bargain.


The swirl of conflicting thoughts and emotions was driving him insane. He couldn't decide how he felt about Wolf. Ten years of active dislike warred with months of...something else. It was so hard to figure out how he felt, sometimes he just wanted to throw up his hands in defeat and remove himself from the situation entirely. But he couldn't quite do it. Something held him back, something he couldn't explain. His feelings were constantly changing, throwing him off balance, keeping him in a state of perpetual confusion, and the way Wolf kept looking at him didn't help at all.


Red awoke to find himself partially draped across Wolf's chest, his legs tangled with Wolf's and his head resting on Wolf's shoulder. For a while he quietly looked up at his lover's sleeping face, tracing the line of the strong jaw with his eyes, contemplating the slightly-open lips, the faint, seemingly ever-present shadow of the man's beard, the prominent cheekbones and the aristocratic nose. There were faint smile-lines forming in the corners of his eyes. Red took it all in, smiling gently as he contemplated the face of the person he had come to love so deeply, above all others.


Red relaxed and closed his eyes, practically purring with pleasure as Wolf ran a comb and his fingers through Red's long hair, which was still damp from the shower. The late morning sun was pouring in through the open window, and a warm breeze wafted into the quiet room where the two men sat on their shared bed, bringing with it the smell of Spring. Red was so happy he wished that this moment would just go on forever; the feeling of the comb and gentle fingers against his scalp was all that was necessary to fill him with content.


Red strode into the kitchen and set his basket down with more force than necessary on the counter. He was feeling tired and hungry and his body ached from all the walking and running he'd been doing in the past few days. He merely grunted in response to Wolf's cheerful welcome and began going through the cupboards in search of something to eat which he wouldn't have to spend a great time preparing. When Wolf came into the kitchen to help, Red shooed him away. Wolf smiled and ignored him. He was used to his mate's unique brand of crankiness.


Every once in a while, Red would shut himself in the kitchen and stay there for hours, humming happily as he experimented with his preferred medium of eggs, flour, and sugar. The results of these bouts of creativity were always a delight to behold and even better to taste. This afternoon was one such, and any passerby might hear cheerful humming drifting out the open kitchen window as Red passed the time, whipping egg whites and melting chocolate in a frenzy of activity. He spent many happy hours this way, and created many new and amazing desserts as a result.


Things had been going so well, and then he'd had to go and say something inappropriate and spoil the moment. As Red became more and more open with him, he held an even greater sway over Wolf's emotions than ever before. A year or so ago, Wolf would have brushed Red's latest scathing dismissal off with barely an acknowledgement and moved on, but now he felt as if his world was breaking apart just a little, and he couldn't help but dwell on it. Moving on was much harder now than it had been when Red had always done that.


When one's One True Love is in the habit of constantly rejecting one's advances, Wolf reflected, it certainly changes one's outlook on life. He'd definitely been a lot more cheerful and carefree before he'd met Red, despite his unfortunate penchant for starting bar fights and getting kicked out of towns. Ten years of constant rejection had turned him into one cynical bastard, as a friend had once kindly said. Life was not, and never would be, sunshine and daisies. It was, to continue the metaphor, rain-clouds and weeds, with plenty of mud to soil one's hopes and dirty one's dreams.


It had been years since they had become lovers, yet Red still blushed and looked away whenever Wolf entered the kitchen wearing nothing but a towel around his hips after a morning shower. Depending on where Red was in the preparation of breakfast at the time, Wolf would either sit down at the table and watch the dark-haired man with a knowing smirk on his lips, or would come up behind him, wrap his arms around Red's shoulders, and gently kiss his neck. This second action always caused Red to squirm with embarrassment, but he also really enjoyed the attention.


He couldn't believe it. Wolf was gone. He had disappeared. Red had asked everyone he knew, and quite a few people he didn't, if they had seen any sign of Wolf. No one had. He searched high and low, leaving well-traveled paths to journey deep into untamed forests and dangerous wilderness, heedless of his own safety. One month of searching like this passed, then two. As the days passed and he continued to see no signs, to hear no rumors, his hopelessness grew. And then one night, his hope faded. He lay down where he stood and gave into despair.


Wolf knocked back his drink in two swallows and thumped the glass down on the bar. He moved it back and forth in small circles with one hand and stared disinterestedly as the ice in the bottom shifted and clinked about, trying not to think. He barely noticed when the bartender placed a fresh drink next to his hand; he only realized it was there after he'd swallowed half of it. No matter. He hoped he'd start feeling the alcohol soon. He hated feeling as miserable as he was now. He would rather deal with a hangover than this depression.


This was it! He would show Red that he was a decent human being if it killed him—which it shouldn't, as it was only a masque—All he had to was get the baker to spend some time with him without the man realizing who he was! Surely he'd be willing to open up to him once he realized Wolf was more than just another horny pervert? Wolf checked his reflection in the mirror of his inn room. Yes, this would do. If Red could be fooled by a pink night-cap, he had no chance against a proper mask.


Red wiped the dirt from his hands as best he could as he crept through the dark, quiet streets of Tempus. He was exhausted and annoyed, and he felt incredibly dirty; of course, it went without saying that when one mucks about in the earth, one becomes somewhat less than clean, but he felt as though he had dirt smeared not just on his skin, but on his soul as well. He was upset about the deed he had just done, and was not comforted by the knowledge that this was simply one more mark on his heavily smudged conscience.


The tavern was crowded, and Red was squidged between Morgan and Wolf, who were chatting cheerfully over his head. Wolf had bought him a cocktail, and that was nearly gone, as was the baker himself; he had a fairly low tolerance for alcohol, considering he almost never drank. He sat quietly, his companions' conversation blurring together with the general buzz of noise in the tavern. As they talked, Red became irritated. Why wasn't Wolf paying more attention to him? He was surprised when he found himself kissing Wolf, then pleased when he realized Wolf's attention was now focused on him.


The dark-haired man was clinging to him as if he never intended to let go, and Wolf clung right back, his heart pounding and so full of joy he thought he might burst. Red was here with him, wanted to be by his side, didn't ever want to part. This was the one thing he had hoped for for so many years, and now that he finally had it, he felt as though he could never want for anything else in the world. He buried his nose in Red's hair and closed his eyes. The smell of cinnamon surrounded him.


Wolf was adamantly wishing for a hole to open up in the earth and swallow him. He'd never expected to run into his parents in a place like this, and certainly had not expected to run into them while he was with Red. There was his mother, his dear, sweet, klutz of a mother, chattering away with Red, regaling him with tales about Wolf's most embarrassing childhood escapades. And then there was his father, who would chime in from time to time with a scathing, witty one-liner that caused Red to laugh and Wolf to wish himself anywhere but here.


After a good evening meal and a quiet sleep in a soft bed, Wolf was feeling amazing. He stepped out of the inn where he'd spent the night and looked up at the incredibly blue sky. Taking a deep breath, he shoved his hands into his pockets and began walking briskly out of town. He really wanted to run, but knew from experience that people tended to be highly suspicious of running men wearing black leather, so he restrained himself until he was well out of town. Then he ran, under the blue sky, for the pure joy of it.


Wolf met him at the door, and walked him to his chair in the sitting room, where the fire was crackling merrily in the fireplace. He sank into the chair gratefully, squeezing Wolf's hand and giving him a tired smile. Wolf leaned down briefly and pressed a kiss to his forehead, then disappeared wordlessly into the kitchen. He was back a few minutes later with a mug of hot chocolate, which he handed to Red with a smile. The baker accepted it gratefully. The two sat quietly as Red sipped his chocolate and relaxed, exhausted from a hard day's work.


It was rare for Wolf to go outside and muck about in the garden with Red, but every once in a while he would change his leather trousers for a sturdy canvas pair and join his lover outside pulling weeds in the yard. Today was one of those days, and Wolf was making the most of it, smiling, winking, and licking his lips suggestively whenever Red happened to glance in his direction—which was often. The dark-haired man always inevitably blushed and looked away, smiling more often than not at his partner's good-natured teasing, which encouraged Wolf to further flirtation.


Little Red Riding Reaper walked along the shady forest path. He wasn't really paying attention to his surroundings. The forest was familiar and his thoughts were elsewhere. Thus it was that he received the biggest fright of his life when he was unexpectedly assaulted from behind. His heart leapt to his throat and all he could utter in the way of a shout for help was a muffled squeak. He was severely frightened for several seconds before his mind registered a familiar leather jacket and the prickly sensation of an unshaven chin where his captor nibbled and kissed his neck.


Wolf didn't know when he'd been so angry in his life. He couldn't believe the things his father had said to Red! In the back of his mind, he was grateful to his mother for successfully smoothing things over, but he was mostly concentrating on the rage he was feeling towards his father. Red, walking beside him, was quiet, sensing the other man's fury. He contemplated the wisdom of taking Wolf's hand in his, and decided against it. It made him sad to realize he didn't really know Wolf well enough to determine how such an action would be received.


Wolf couldn't sleep. He was too happy. He and Red were right next door to each other, bedding in separate rooms at an inn. Knowing that Red was nearby, sleeping peacefully, delighted him, but what had really made his evening was when Red had shyly stood up on his tip-toes to give Wolf a goodnight kiss on the cheek before they'd gone into their separate rooms. He was grinning stupidly thinking about it even now. He knew he was acting like a silly schoolgirl, but the giddy little butterflies dancing in his stomach made it impossible for him to care.


The first time Wolf emerged from the bedroom after him and stumbled into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes and still half-asleep, Red couldn't help the giggle that escaped him at the sight of his lover's disheveled bed-hair. Wolf dropped heavily into his customary seat at the table and looked blearily in Red's general direction, his eyes still half-shut. Red giggled harder. Wolf covered his face with his hands and mumbled something blearily about coffee, which Red happily prepared and set in front of him with a small snort of laugher and a kiss pressed to the top of his head.


Wolf seated himself in the window of his room at the opera house, propped his chin up on his hand and stared out at the grey November afternoon. Rain was pouring from the skies in sheets. He was on his own and had begun thinking, naturally, about Red, and was now feeling somewhat depressed. The weather wasn't helping his mood any, it had to be said. He tried his best to keep from being sober when he was alone, but every once in a while it couldn't be avoided, and he always ended up thinking about Red and feeling gloomy.


Since he and Wolf had moved into a shop in Baker Town together, the man had become Red's indispensable partner. Not only was he the beloved companion Red had always dreamt of, but he had practical uses as well. Business at Red's shop had never been better, though he wasn't certain if that was to do with the relocation or with Wolf's assistance in the kitchen. Red had been pleased to discover that Wolf not only enjoyed cooking and baking, but that he was also quite good at it. He often reflected on how grateful he was for Wolf's presence.


Sometimes Wolf felt guilty about inadvertently breaking Red and Hunter up. He tried telling himself it would have happened sooner or later, as soon as Hunter had realized that Red wasn't the adorable young girl he'd thought, and that knowledge helped a bit. Even so, he'd been a source of unhappiness in Red, and that, more than anything, caused him no small amount of grief. But he ignored it as best he could, setting the past aside in order to concentrate on the present. As the years passed, he hardly thought about it anymore, until eventually, the guilt went away.


Wolf was a fairly forgiving man. Even when stirred to anger on multiple occasions, he didn't normally let resentment build towards any one individual, but in extreme cases, he made exceptions...or exceptions made him. He didn't really have a lot of control over it. All he knew was that he hated the smart-ass pup Red called Wulf with a passion that was only rivaled by his love for Red. Had Red not been so adamant about keeping the insufferable mutt alive, Wolf would have killed it long ago. But Red was very fond of it, so he let it live.


When Red smiled tentatively at him and blushed like that, Wolf wondered if maybe he hadn't screwed things up completely beyond repair between the two of them after all. When the dark-haired man abruptly and awkwardly hugged him, Wolf felt like his heart would burst from his chest it contained so much happiness. When Red slipped his hand, quietly and nonchalantly, into Wolf's, the silver-haired man couldn't stop the surge of hope that swelled within him. Maybe, just maybe, he could turn ten years of constant disaster around despite himself. He smiled as he contemplated the future, irrepressibly, foolishly hopeful.


The muggy July heat was reaching unbearable temperatures. Wolf had shed his clothes and was stretched out in his chair wearing only the boxers Red had bought him and insisted he wear around the house when it was too hot for other clothes. Wolf thought Red was being silly; it wasn't as if he would be seeing anything he hadn't seen before, after all, but Red still insisted.
Wolf looked up at a sound, and saw Red had appeared in the doorway, sans shirt. He stepped into the middle of the room and stretched out on the floor. Wolf smiled.


Seated at the kitchen table resting his head on his arms, Red watched Wolf move about in the kitchen. More specifically, he was watching the man's ass as he moved about, covered and caressed by tight black leather with every move Wolf made. Red stared and found himself imagining scenarios which involved that same bit of anatomy, sans leather. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and frowned slightly when Wolf turned around, removing the object of his contemplation from his view. He was mollified a moment later when he realized that the view from this angle was also quite nice.


Wolf sniffed and blinked rapidly, trying to gain control of his tears. He wasn't one to cry, normally, but he could only be yelled at so many times before it started to get to him. He settled himself down on the root of a tree and leaned up against the trunk, trying to bring his emotions under control. He'd been following Red for years now, attempting to prove his devotion and sincerity, but all he ever got for his troubles were scowls and glares, and, more often than not, angry shouts. Sighing, he closed his eyes, and did not cry.


He felt like a complete idiot. Here he was, saving Red's bacon time and again, and each time he only got yelled at for his trouble. And yet, for some unfathomable reason, he would always inevitably forget about it and return close to the baker's side, though usually hidden in the shadows and watching from afar. Sometimes he wondered why he didn't just wash his hands of the whole mess and give up, but he always came back to the same conclusion: He was an idiot. He must be, otherwise he'd never have put up with this for so long.


Not having known his mother beyond his tender childhood years, Red was surprised at the coercive effects an adult woman could have on an adult man who she called her son. Wolf sat awkwardly on the sofa next to him, dressed in a well-fitting suit of clothes which would rival any princely garb. The clothing suited him, and he looked incredibly handsome. Even more impressive was that Russet had somehow gotten Wolf to shave. Red reached up and trailed a finger along the man's now-smooth jaw. Wolf stiffened at the touch, and he stared at Red incredulously. Red just smiled.


Red's birthday was soon. As this year was the first time Wolf had ever been invited to be present, he was determined not to screw things up by saying something that might upset Red. He also knew that he had to pick out the best present as well, something that Red would absolutely love. He had narrowed it down to an enormous box of chocolates, twenty-six red roses, or a gift certificate to the Allegro Pizzante, the most famous and expensive restaurant in Bella Notte. After many hours of uncertain indecisiveness, Wolf decided he might as well get them all.


There were so many women surrounding him, their numbers seemed countless. He knew many had an eye on him, with the idea for conversation or perhaps a bit more lurking in the backs of their minds. He was polite and civil with all of them, spoke when he was spoken to, entertained and was entertained by them. But he remained indifferent, refusing to pick out one to favor over the others. Because Wolf already had his beloved, his soul-mate, and that person shone to him like the brightest star, against which none of these starlets could ever hope to compete.


Nothing grated on Wolf's nerves more than being falsely accused of some misdeed. He knew he didn't help matters at all when it came to that because of his scruffy, disreputable appearance, but shaving his face every day was a bloody nuisance, and his leather trousers and jacket were so worn-in and comfortable, he couldn't even begin to contemplate the possibility of trading them in for more civilized garments. So whenever an inevitable accusation took place, he could only plead his innocence to largely disbelieving ears and figure out the best way to escape whatever mess he'd gotten himself into.


Red made himself as small as he could in a quiet corner and watched with wide eyes as Wolf transformed from the charming gentleman he'd been sharing a drink with into a sleek and deadly animal. He could tell by the way Wolf moved and fought that he was perfectly used to these sorts of bar brawls, and he was rather shocked to see this heretofore unknown side of his companion. The fight didn't last long, and when Wolf straightened, victorious, from the aftermath and casually popped the joints in his neck, Red felt both slightly fearful and very impressed.


The dark-haired man listened, absorbed, as Wolf told him of his exploits as a young lad, reckless adventures and daring escapades, which nearly all ended in the same way, with scraped knees and a tearful scolding from his mother. Then the stories progressed beyond childhood, became longer and more complex as both freedom and memory improved. Red was fascinated by it all, and delighted that Wolf was sharing this with him. He felt like they were really building a proper relationship, moving away from the knowledge monopoly Wolf had on him, and it made him deliriously happy to realize it.


Red was struck with an astonishing wave of jealousy. He realized that even though he'd known Wolf for almost as long as Morgan had, he knew less than half as much about the silver-haired man as the opera house owner, and that realization rankled. And there it was: He was jealous of Morgan, and the relationship the man had with Wolf, both in the past and now in the present. He found it was all he could do to prevent himself from snatching Wolf's hand and dragging him away from the handsome man who was talking so easily with him.


Red stepped into his empty house. Everything was just as it always was, but Red knew something had changed. It had nothing to do with the house, but with him. He hung his cloak on the coat-rack and set his basket down on the kitchen table. His footsteps in the narrow staircase to his bedroom seemed to echo loudly in the silent, empty house. He had once found the solitude desirable and comforting, but now he found it stifling and lonely. He entered his bedroom and sat on his bed, which was, he reflected, far too large for one person.


It was the little things that made him feel most loved. The way breakfast was always ready when he finally managed to drag himself out of bed each morning; the way slices of cakes Red knew he liked were set aside for him, separate from those that were to be sold; the way his unforgivably messy study remained that way, despite Red's almost obsessive need to keep things neat and orderly...The way Red would unexpectedly sneak up on him when he was sitting down anywhere in the house and drop a light kiss on his cheek before running off, blushing...


Red was stunned. He felt breathless, and he stared at Wolf as if for the first time, his eyes widening in shock as he realized the meaning of the confused emotions welling within him. Wolf asked him if he was alright, and he nodded his head. Still concerned, Wolf leaned down slightly to peer into his eyes, a worried frown upon his lips. Red stared at those lips, at those eyes, at that face, all so familiar, taking them all in now as if he'd never seen them before. There was no denying: he was in love with this man.


It really was amazing, he reflected, how things had turned out so wonderfully after they'd gone so badly for so long. Whenever he woke up before Red, Wolf would just lie still and contemplate his sleeping lover. Even after years of being together, he still held a sense of wonder that Red had finally accepted him, had finally come to return his love. This morning, Wolf was watching Red's sleeping face, only inches from his own. He looked so peaceful asleep, and, oddly, older, closer to his proper age. Wolf gently brushed a lock of black hair aside and smiled.


Wolf was sitting by himself in a small café, sipping reflectively at his coffee and thinking, when he noticed a young couple enter the establishment and sit down at a cozy table in the far corner. They held each other's hands and leaned their heads close together across the table, totally oblivious to anything but themselves. Wolf watched them for a few moments before he turned away to look out the window instead, feeling slightly depressed now. He wished that the one person in the world he wanted to do silly, cozy couple things with wanted to do them too.


It usually took about three beers to get a gentle buzz going for Wolf, but that was all he wanted tonight. He listened absently as Red talked to him about the next day's orders, paying more attention to the sound of his beloved's voice than to the meaning of the words. When Red noticed Wolf's mood, he stopped talking, realizing the silver-haired man wasn't really paying attention to the content of his monologue, just the sound. That was perfectly alright with him, though. It meant he could expect several hours of peaceful cuddling once he joined Wolf on the love-seat.


It was raining. In every sense of the word. It wasn't drizzling, sprinkling, or misting gently to the ground, it was raining. In buckets. Very large buckets. The world was reduced to a few feet in any one direction, and faded to neutral grey beyond that. Normally, Red didn't mind this sort of rain. He liked watching it from his kitchen window as he baked. But being out in it? Another matter entirely. He shivered and crossed his arms tightly, hunching into his hood, though that didn't do much good, as he was already freezing and soaked to the skin.


If there was one thing Red could be counted on for, Wolf reflected, it was his tendency to shriek in fright and leap three feet in the air at the sight of a spider. He knew it was a horrible thing to do, but he couldn't stop himself sometimes from nonchalantly pointing out some non-existent arachnid. Every time without fail, without even bothering to look, Red would squeak in terror and leap into Wolf's arms. The silver-haired man didn't do this often, only when he was feeling especially mischievous. He preferred more honest ways of coercing Red into his arms.


Wolf had recently told Red of his extreme dislike of snakes, and Red, for some reason, had not been able to get this out of his mind. He found himself wondering how Wolf reacted to the presence of the legless reptiles; would he scream girlishly? Well, probably not; that just wasn't Wolf. But still, Red couldn't get the thought out of his head, and, one day when he was working in his garden, he spotted a small garter snake. Almost without thinking, he reached out and picked it up, then stood and entered the house with it, searching for Wolf.


All couples must fight sometime, he supposed, but that reasoning didn't make him feel any less sick to his stomach. When Wolf won an argument, he hated watching Red after, couldn't stand to see the defeated slump to his shoulders, the skittish way he avoided eye-contact. But he was upset too; not really angry, more hurt. Red could say really hurtful things without half thinking about it. Wolf knew he shouldn't let it get to him, and mostly it didn't, but every once in a while a barbed remark would hit a sensitive area, and he couldn't help his reaction.


He swallowed hard, staring into Wolf's amber eyes. He was flat on his back, and Wolf was on top of him. He knew what was coming, of course, and there was a small flock of birds fluttering very energetically in his stomach as a result. Wolf leaned down and kissed his face gently, brushing his lips lovingly over Red's cheeks, nose, eyelids, brow...He squirmed nervously beneath the weight of the taller man, not at all sure what he should be doing, wishing someone somewhere had told him what to expect, wishing that Wolf would just get on with it already...


Red realized he was being ridiculous, that he was being difficult and obstinate as a matter of principle now rather than from any real desire to push Wolf away, but he still couldn't quite bring himself to put aside ten years of annoyance and just...let go. If he had realized what the Ironic Overpower had planned for him because of his stubbornness, it would be nice to think that he'd have put his silly principles aside and gotten on with it, but since the past is fixed and unchangeable, we may never know if Red would have done anything differently.


Things had, Wolf thought, been looking up recently. Red seemed to be slowly accepting his presence, perhaps even welcoming it, though he thought he might just be imagining things with that last possibility. But oh, if he was! Wolf smiled to think of the possibilities. He felt like he might die of happiness every time Red so much as smiled at him. To imagine something beyond that...Wolf shook his head, frowning. He knew he shouldn't daydream about such things, as he was undoubtedly bound to be disappointed, but he was feeling so optimistic today that he just couldn't help it.


Wolf shifted uneasily in his sleep and made a small noise that sounded for all the world like an unhappy kitten, then settled back into a deeper sleep. Red stared reluctantly at his lover's blanket-covered form, feeling guilty. He didn't really want to leave the bed, but he had to start the day's orders. Before he had finally accepted Wolf into his life and they had moved in together, Red had never minded getting up early to begin work. Now every morning that he had to leave the warmth of the bed before his partner pained him like nothing else.


They were all out to get him. Or into his pants, at least. Everyone and their father, brother, uncle, cousin, best friend's former roommate...Nowhere was safe, because no matter where he went, he met some perverted arse who saw him and thought he'd make a nice lay. And it was never anyone he thought he might like to have a fling with, either. It was always some great lewd, grinning, perverted bastard whose idea of a good time in the sack would make a brothel owner blush. He'd probably be better off if he just stopped going outside at all.


He stared at the silver-haired man before him, completely overcome by intense emotions. He felt as though his chest would burst, inadequate to contain the feelings welling and gathering there. He had never felt so strongly about anyone before; he thought it might very well kill him. But as each moment passed, seconds stretching to near infinity, he remained alive. He reached one hand up to gently touch Wolf's face. It seemed the only action he was capable of performing at the moment, though he truly wanted to fling himself at the other man with all the strength he possessed.


The Big Bad Wolf watched from behind a concealing shrubbery as Little Red Riding Reaper approached. Slim legs flashed tantalizingly from beneath the ever-present cheerful red cloak; the freckled nose and warm brown eyes were alight with innocent cheer. From the basket carried in the crook of one slender arm wafted the most delightful scents – cinnamon, chocolate, the smell of fresh baked bread...Red approached the spot where Wolf was hiding and then walked right on past, oblivious. Wolf was perfectly fine with this, and moved to follow quietly behind, concealed still in the underbrush, happily stalking his delectably oblivious prey.


Red had told him, several times, that he was being silly, but Wolf didn't care. Red said it wasn't practical, but Wolf wanted to anyway. Red had, at one point, even given him an ultimatum: In a bed or not at all, but Wolf ignored him. Wolf thought Red was too uptight and stuffy, and that he needed to (metaphorically) let his hair down a bit more often and have more fun, while he was still young enough to appreciate it. He would look back on these "adventures" one day with fondness, Wolf knew. Red just didn't realize it yet.


As Wolf drifted to consciousness he noticed he couldn't feel his left arm. He realized it was probably to do with the beautiful man curled next to him using it as a pillow. He saw that Red was awake, though he was pretending to be asleep—something he did often, which Wolf was content to let him do. He shifted onto his back and pulled Red along with him, moving his head from his arm to his shoulder. Red rolled over the rest of the way of his own accord, pressed himself against Wolf's side, and continued to fake sleep.


Wolf wanted to do something, but he didn't know what. He tried reading, but none of the books he picked up grabbed his attention. He tried a few rounds of solitaire, but it couldn't hold his interest. Even a game of strip poker with Morgan was a no-go; not because he couldn't force himself to pay attention, but because he'd lost after only four rounds. Morgan suggested he take a walk, so he went outside into the crisp autumn air and walked into town. Nothing there really interested him, so he returned to the opera house after a short time.


Red strode up to Wolf, went up on his tip-toes and placed his hands on Wolf's hips for balance, then kissed him right on the mouth. Wolf responded immediately, taken aback but pleased. He leaned down so that Red wouldn't have to reach so far and placed his hands on the baker's shoulders. Red's left hand slowly crept up underneath Wolf's shirt as the kiss progressed, and when it reached its goal, Wolf pulled away and raised an eyebrow at him, a surprised smile on his lips. Red blushed slightly and looked shifty, but kept his hand where it was.


Wolf was frozen with shock. Completely out of the blue, Red had run up to him, flung his arms around his neck, and kissed him square on the mouth. It hadn't lasted long, of course; the baker had quickly pulled away again, blushing, and strode off down the path. But the memory of warm lips on his, of that slim body pressed—voluntarily!—against his own, remained, muddling his mind. Red called something from up ahead, jerking Wolf from his daze. The baker was waiting for him some distance away, scowling with embarrassment. Wolf smiled, and hurried to catch up.


He had felt a little off when he crawled into bed last night. This morning he was lamenting his very existence; freezing cold one minute, burning hot the next, feeling as though his throat had been scraped over shards of glass...He was only marginally aware of gentle hands brushing the hair from his eyes, of a cool cloth pressed tenderly against his forehead, of strong arms holding him and patiently assisting him with the simple task of drinking from a cup of water. Red couldn't remember a time where he had felt worse, or where he had felt more loved.


Preparations for the wedding were in full swing, and Red was running himself in circles trying to see to it all at once. He and Wolf only wanted a simple joining ceremony, but Death and Love, his two closest relatives, were insisting on a full-blown three-ring circus complete with guests, too many flowers, and an enormous wedding cake. They ignored his protests and pleas and were quite adamant that Red have a proper ceremony, which he of course ended up planning mostly on his own, as the two women couldn't easily take time off from their work to help him.


Red stared uncertainly at the small, velvet-covered box Wolf had set in front of him. Glancing up into his eyes, he saw that Wolf was eagerly waiting for him to open it. So Red looked back down and picked it up, feeling his heart begin to beat faster for some unknown reason. He slid his thumbnail in the small crack and pushed the lid up on its tightly-sprung hinge. Nestled within the white satin interior was a simple gold band. He felt inexplicable tears prick in his eyes and he looked back up at Wolf in surprise, his heart pounding.


Red watched Wolf read the note curiously. When he finished, he seemed to fold in on himself, and Red watched with alarm as tears began to slide silently down his lover's cheeks. He touched the paper, silently asking for permission to read it, and Wolf relinquished it without a sound. After reading the few words put there, Red set it aside and gathered Wolf into his arms. The silver-haired man clung to him gratefully, and Red stroked his back soothingly. He knew all too well what it was like to find out that both of one's parents had passed on.


Red slouched comfortably in his chair in front of the fire, legs crossed at the ankle and chin propped on his hand, staring over at Wolf, whose nose was buried in yet another book. He watched his partner thoughtfully for some time. He remembered being amazed to discover Wolf's passion for books and reading; he didn't seem like the type. But then, Red reminded himself with a smile, he also didn't seem like the type to do a lot of things he had done: Ridiculous disguises, last-minute heroic rescues, dogged persistence in the face of constant rejection...The list went on.


Wolf trudged along the familiar path home warily, yawning every few minutes. When he got home, all he wanted to do was strip off his clothes and fall in bed, too tired even to consider a shower. The forest was dark, as the sun had set long ago, but he knew the way well enough that he didn't need light. He felt a burst of warmth in his chest when the path opened up into a clearing containing his home; he could see light in the ground-floor window, and his beloved Red with his face pressed to the glass, waiting.


Wolf unwrapped the brown parcel carefully, trying not to rip the paper too much. His fingers brushed something soft, and he drew the package's contents out to have a look. It was a scarf, green and grey with matching tassels on each end. He stretched it out and found it was slightly longer than he was tall. A slip of paper pinned to one end caught his attention. He opened it and read, "It's cold outside and you don't dress warm enough. –Red." Unbelievably touched, Wolf immediately wound the muffler around his neck. It smelled of apples, honey, and cinnamon.


Wolf shifted uncomfortably in his seat across the table from Red. It was bad enough that his mother had forced him into a stuffy outfit similar to the one his father usually wore, but sitting between his father and mother and across from Red was, he felt, truly awkward. His mother and Red were chatting away amiably, while he and his father remained silent; Wolf didn't speak as he wouldn't be able to get a word in edgewise, even if he'd had something to say, and his father was silent as well, probably still annoyed by the incident this afternoon.


Red reached out tentatively and touched Wolf's shoulder. The silver-haired man smiled at him and ran one finger delicately along Red's jaw, waiting to see what he would do next. Emboldened by the encouragement in Wolf's eyes, Red squirmed slightly closer, allowing his hand to trail down from shoulder to chest, which was firm and warm beneath his hesitant touch. In turn, Wolf's hand slipped around Red's head, fingers a gentle pressure against the nape of his neck, thumb rubbing gentle circles in the skin of Red's cheek. Slightly more confident, Red leaned forward, blushing, his eyes locked with Wolf's.


It was stupid, really, but Red couldn't help being upset. His basket, the one that his mother had left him, had finally, after many years of faithful service, given in to the ravages of time. Of course, he knew he ought to have treated it better, and that it was really actually a minor miracle that it had lasted for as long as it had. These thoughts did nothing to make him feel better, and, on reflection, actually made him feel a whole lot worse. Why had he been stupid enough to treat something so important to him so carelessly?


Wolf watched the silver-haired youth warily; that the boy looked almost exactly as he did at that age was enough to attest to his parentage, but Wolf was uneasy in the young man's presence. He didn't think it had anything to do with how easily he was chatting away with Red, who was simply delighted to meet one of Wolf's children. So delighted was he, in fact, that he pulled the thirteen-year old into an affectionate embrace. The boy returned the hug eagerly, smirking at Wolf over Red's shoulder. Wolf's eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared; this lad was trouble.


He was being silly, but that knowledge didn't stop him from worrying what Wolf would think. He fidgeted in his seat as his mate carefully undid the cheerful packaging Red had wrapped his birthday present in. He'd gone to great lengths to find this specific item, and while he knew, practically, it was something that Wolf both wanted and needed, there was always the niggling little doubt in the back of his mind that it wasn't good enough. He held his breath as the new leather jacket was revealed, and let it go in relief when he saw Wolf's smile.